Communion Preparation (September 2014)

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” (Mark 14:22) [1]

There are two givers in this sacrament. The minister gives the earthly thing (that is, bread and wine) and Christ Jesus gives the heavenly thing (that is, His own body and blood). Christ, in giving the earthly thing, does not use His own ministry immediately, or the ministry of an angel, but only the ministry of an earthly man. As for the giving of His own body and blood, He keeps this ministry to Himself. If any man in the world had the power to give Christ’s body and blood, without doubt, that man would have power to cleanse the heart and conscience (for the blood of Christ has this power with it) and consequently he would have power to forgive sins. Now, it is only God who may forgive sins, and therefore, it is not possible for the ministry of the heavenly thing to be in the power of any man.

The thing signified (that is, Christ) is never offered to the mouth of the body. The blood of Christ, the flesh of Christ, the whole Christ, or the Spirit of Christ, is not offered (either in the word or in the sacrament) to the mouth of the body. Show me any passage in the Bible where another way of receiving Christ than by faith is to be found. As I told you, there is no instrument (either hand or mouth) by which we may lay hold of Christ but faith alone. As Christ, who is the thing signified, is grasped by the hand and mouth of faith, so the sign, which signifies Christ, is grasped by our own natural mouth and hand. You have a mouth in your bodies, which is the proper instrument by which to lay hold of the sign, just as faith is the proper instrument by which to lay hold of Christ. Thus the sign and the thing signified are offered and given, not to one instrument, but to two: the one to the mouth of the body, the other to the mouth of the soul. There can be nothing clearer than this: the one is taken in a natural way, the other in a secret and spiritual way.

Hence, this is what you must do: distinguish between the outward and the inward action, between the sign and the thing signified. Keep a proportion and analogy between the inward and the outward actions. You may be quite sure that if you are faithful, Christ is as busy working inwardly in your soul as the minister is working outwardly in regard to your body. See how busy the minister is in breaking the bread, in pouring out the wine, in giving the bread and the wine to you? Christ is just as busy, in breaking His own body unto you and in giving you the juice of His own body in a spiritual and invisible way. Preserve this distinction and you may assure yourself that, by faith, Christ is as fully occupied with your soul in nourishing it, as the minister is outwardly with your body. Keep this and you have the whole sacrament.

So far, all we have said concerns the elements. But apart from these general considerations, it remains to say something about the word. The word is that which quickens the sacrament, which serves as its soul, and which gives life to the whole action. For by the word (and the appointment of Christ in the word), the minister knows his part, the hearer knows his part, and everyone is prepared for his appropriate action: the minister to deliver and the hearer to receive. The institution of Christ is the quickening of the whole action, for all the action derives its warrant from the institution set down in His word.

There are two things to be considered in Christ’s institution: a command and a promise. The command you will find in His words: ‘Take, eat.’ The command demands and requires obedience. There is also a promise in this institution, and it is contained in these words: ‘This is My body.’ As the command requires obedience, so the promise requires belief. Do not come to the sacrament, therefore, unless you come both in faith and in obedience. If you do not come with a heart ready to obey Christ, at least more than you have been in the habit of doing, you come to your own judgment. And if you bring a heart void of faith, you come to your own judgment. Thus let everyone who comes to the sacrament, bring with him a heart determined on doing better, that is, to obey and believe Christ better than in the past. Unless you bring these two in some measure, do not come to the sacrament, for whatever you do apart from faith, can profit you nothing.

The Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) is scheduled to observe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on September 14, 2014 at 2pm. Those desiring to commune who are not communicant members in good standing of the Reformed Presbyterian Church must first be interviewed by the elders as to their personal faith and commitment to Christ, their church membership, and their baptism. In addition, all communicants are urged to prepare and examine themselves beforehand, as mandated by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:27-32) and described in our Larger Catechism (Questions 171-174).

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1)

[1] Material excerpted and adapted from The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper: Sermons by Robert Bruce (Rutherford House: Edinburgh, 2005) 54-59.